Swati Sidhu

Project Associate, Education and Public Engagement

Hs 2013 08 04 0262

M.Sc. in Environmental Biology

I joined Nature Conservation Foundation in 2007. During my time with NCF, I have worked with three different programmes. In the Anamalai Hills with the Western Ghats programme, I spent my time observing hunting parties of birds and studying aspects of leopard biology that may reflect the nature of their relationship with people. In 2011, I joined the Eastern Himalaya programme to explore the relationship between plants and their less obvious agents of seed dispersal and predation, the forest rodents. I am currently working with the Education and Public Engagement team on SeasonWatch project.

Projects

Cdy00008

Living with leopards

Carnivore, conflicts, and conservation in the Anamalai hills

Tea1

Of forests and farms

Conserving wildlife in forests and plantations in the landscape

035

Completed

Pakke Nature Information Centre

A new learning and activity centre for visitors to Pakke Tiger Reserve

Turpinia 20pomifera 20seedling

Rats, seeds and rainforest trees

Plant-animal interactions: seed predation and plant demography

Pongamia jmgarg

SeasonWatch

Join us in studying the seasonality of trees!

Ltm with infant

Wildlife in rainforest fragments

Life in the treetops and undergrowth in rainforest remnants

Publications

  • Journal Article
    2017
    Conflict to coexistence: Human – leopard interactions in a plantation landscape in Anamalai Hills, India
    Conservation and Society 15(4): 474-482.
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    PDF, 1.18 MB

    When leopards are found in human-dominated landscapes, conflicts may arise due to attacks on people or livestock loss or when people retaliate following real and perceived threats. In the plantation landscape of the Valparai plateau, we studied incidents of injury and loss of life of people and livestock over time (15 – 25 y) and carried out questionnaire surveys in 29 plantation colonies and eight tribal villages to study correlates of livestock depredation, people's perception of leopards, and preferred management options for human – leopard interactions. Leopards were implicated in an average of 1.3 (± 0.4 SE) incidents/year (1990 – 2014) involving humans and 3.6 (± 0.8 SE) incidents/year (1999 – 2014) involving livestock, with no statistically significant increasing trend over time. Most incidents of injury or loss of life involved young children or unattended livestock, and occurred between afternoon and night. At the colony level, livestock depredation was positively related to the number of livestock, but decreased with the distance from protected area and number of residents. Half the respondents reported seeing a leopard in a neutral situation, under conditions that resulted in no harm. All tribal and 52% of estate respondents had neutral perceptions of leopards and most (81.9%, n = 161 respondents) indicated changing their own behaviour as a preferred option to manage negative interactions with leopards, rather than capture or removal of leopards. Perception was unrelated to livestock depredation, but tended to be more negative when human attacks had occurred in a colony. A combination of measures including safety precautions for adults and children at night, better livestock herding and cattle-sheds, and building on people's neutral perception and tolerance can mitigate negative interactions and support continued human – leopard coexistence.

  • Popular Article
    2016
    The land of travelling falcons
    The Hindu in School, 30 November
  • Journal Article
    2015
    Tracking seed fates of tropical tree species: evidence for seed caching in a tropical forest in north-east India
    PLoS ONEDOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134658
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    PDF, 1.3 MB

    Rodents affect the post-dispersal fate of seeds by acting either as on-site seed predators or as secondary dispersers when they scatter-hoard seeds. The tropical forests of north-east India harbour a high diversity of little-studied terrestrial murid and hystricid rodents. We examined the role played by these rodents in determining the seed fates of tropical evergreen tree species in a forest site in north-east India. We selected ten tree species (3 mammal-dispersed and 7 bird-dispersed) that varied in seed size and followed the fates of 10,777 tagged seeds. We used camera traps to determine the identity of rodent visitors, visitation rates and their seed-handling behavior. Seeds of all tree species were handled by at least one rodent taxon. Overall rates of seed removal (44.5%) were much higher than direct on-site seed predation (9.9%), but seed-handling behavior differed between the terrestrial rodent groups: two species of murid rodents removed and cached seeds, and two species of porcupines were on-site seed predators. In addition, a true cricket,Brachytrupessp., cached seeds of three species underground. We found 309 caches formed by the rodents and the cricket; most were single-seeded (79%) and seeds were moved up to 19 m. Over 40% of seeds were re-cached from primary cache locations, while about 12% germinated in the primary caches. Seed removal rates varied widely amongst tree species, from 3% inBeilschmiedia assamicato 97% inActinodaphne obovata. Seed predation was observed in nine species.Chisocheton cumingianus(57%) andPrunus ceylanica(25%) had moderate levels of seed predation while the remaining species had less than 10% seed predation. We hypothesized that seed traits that provide information on resource quantity would influence rodent choice of a seed, while traits that determine resource accessibility would influence whether seeds are removed or eaten. Removal rates significantly decreased (p< 0.001) while predation rates increased (p= 0.06) with seed size. Removal rates were significantly lower for soft seeds (p= 0.002), whereas predation rates were significantly higher on soft seeds (p= 0.01). Our results show that murid rodents play a very important role in affecting the seed fates of tropical trees in the Eastern Himalayas. We also found that the different rodent groups differed in their seed handling behavior and responses to changes in seed characteristics.

  • Popular Article
    2015
    Hornbill hills: the hunter
    The Hindu in School, 25 Feb
  • Dataset
    2015
    Data from: Tracking seed fates of tropical tree species: evidence for seed caching in a tropical forest in north-east India.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5g18m
  • Popular Article
    2015
    Hornbill hills: the protector
    The Hindu in School, 4 March
  • Journal Article
    2015
    Prey abundance and leopard diet in a plantation and rainforest landscape, Anamalai Hills, Western Ghats
    Current Science 109: 323-330.
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    PDF, 3.54 MB

    Leopards use a wide range of habitats from natural forests to plantations in human-dominated landscapes. Within interface areas, understanding leopard ecology and diet can help in conservation management and conflict avoidance. In a fragmented rainforest and plantation landscape in southern India, we examined diet of large carnivores (with a focus on leopards) using scat analysis with DNA-based identification of predator species, and estimated relative abundance of prey species in different land uses through transect surveys. Large carnivores predominantly consumed wild prey species (98.1%) and domestic prey species contributed <2% to overall prey biomass. For leopards, four wild prey species (Indian muntjac, Indian spotted chevrotain, sambar and Indian porcupine) contributed 95.1% of prey biomass, with the rest being minor wild prey species (no livestock in identified scats). Wild prey species occurred across the landscape but varied in relative abundance by land-use type, with forest fragments supporting higher abundance of many species relative to tea and coffee plantations. As large carnivores mainly depend on wild prey and rainforest fragments act as refuges for these mammals within the tea and coffee plantations, it is important to continue to retain or restore these forest fragments.

    PDF: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/109/02/0323.pdf

  • Report
    2015
    Hornbill Watch Report June 2014 to May 2015
    May 2015, www.hornbills.in
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    PDF, 813 KB

    An update that summarises the information obtained on Indian hornbills contributed by people on the Hornbill Watch website for one year (June 2014 to May 2015).

  • Dataset
    2015
    Data from: Does mixed-species flocking influence how birds respond to a gradient of land-use intensity? Proceedings of the Royal Society B
    C Mammides, J Chen, U M Goodale, S W Kotagama, Swati Sidhu, E Goodale
    Dryad Data Repository doi: 10.5061/dryad.vk070
  • Journal Article
    2015
    Does mixed-species flocking influence how birds respond to a gradient of land-use intensity?
    C Mammides, J Chen, U M Goodale, S W Kotagama, Swati Sidhu, E Goodale
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282: 20151118.
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    PDF, 476 KB

    Conservation biology is increasingly concerned with preserving interactions among species such as mutualisms in landscapes facing anthropogenic change. We investigated how one kind of mutualism, mixed-species bird flocks, influences the way in which birds respond to different habitat types of varying land-use intensity. We use data from a well-replicated, large-scale study in Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats of India, in which flocks were observed inside forest reserves, in ‘buffer zones' of degraded forest or timber plantations, and in areas of intensive agriculture. We find flocks affected the responses of birds in three ways: (i) species with high propensity to flock were more sensitive to land use; (ii) different flock types, dominated by different flock leaders, varied in their sensitivity to land use and because following species have distinct preferences for leaders, this can have a cascading effect on followers' habitat selection; and (iii) those forest-interior species that remain outside of forests were found more inside flocks than would be expected by chance, as they may use flocks more in suboptimal habitat. We conclude that designing policies to protect flocks and their leading species may be an effective way to conserve multiple bird species in mixed forest and agricultural landscapes.

    PDF also available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.1118

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